Page:Folk-lore - A Quarterly Review. Volume 22, 1911.djvu/42

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Presidential Address.

of his day, we find him obtaining from a brother surgeon at Turin an invaluable recipe for a "balm" for dressing gunshot wounds, which previously, be it remembered, had been treated with boiling oil. This "balm" was made with "young whelps just born" and earthworms preserved in Venice turpentine, boiled together in oil of lilies. Here, then, we find the newest and most approved leechcraft of that day surviving in the folk-medicine of this,—and notice that the original recipe came from Piedmont and was carried to Paris. In the same way, no doubt, it travelled to Germany, England, and Ireland, and probably whereever else soldiers fought in the making of modern Europe and surgeons dressed their wounds.

Another medical example. Here, there, and everywhere in the British Isles, first one folklorist and then another stumbles on a variant of the old toothache charm, to be written and carried about the patient, which runs somewhat as follows,—'Peter sat on a marble stone. Jesus Christ said,—'What aileth thee, Peter?' Peter saith,—'Lord, my teeth acheth so that I can neither go, lie, nor stand.' Jesus saith unto him,—'Follow me, and whosoever weareth these lines for my sake, he shall never have the toothache.' "Latin versions of this popular charm occur in Anglo-Saxon and mediaeval medical treatises as formulæ prescribed by approved authority.[1] Here, again, the folklore remedy of the present day was the property of the learned in times past, and the medium by which it was disseminated was obviously an intrusive culture, namely the ecclesiastical culture of the Middle Ages.

Turn now to folk-literature, (if I may so call it). The same "intrusive culture" must be responsible for the currency of the myth related in the Bitter Withy ballad already referred to. The story of the Child Christ making a bridge of sunbeams and his playfellows failing to

  1. Cockayne, Leechdoms, etc. of early England; J. F. Payne, English Medicine in Anglo-Saxon Times, p. 129.